Careers: Interviews
Interview Eric Schmidt, April 1998

Interviews : Stephen Ibaraki, I.S.P.

Dr. Schmidt's Profile followed by the Interview

Dr. Eric Schmidt
Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer
Novell, Inc.

"Dr. Eric Schmidt joined Novell in April 1997 as chairman of the board of directors and chief executive officer. At Novell, Schmidt is actively involved in all significant operating and strategic decisions for the company and plays a central role in the technical development and management of the company.

Dr. Schmidt came to Novell from Sun Microsystems, Inc., where he was chief technology officer and corporate executive officer. In his 14 years at Sun, Dr. Schmidt held a range of progressively more responsible executive positions, where he earned international recognition as an Internet pioneer. He was also instrumental in the widespread acceptance of Java, Sun's platform-independent programming language.

Prior to joining Sun, Dr. Schmidt was a member of the research staff at the Computer Science Lab at Xerox Palo Alto Research Center (PARC). He also held positions at Bell Laboratories and Zilog.

Dr. Schmidt has a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering from Princeton University, a master's degree in electrical engineering, and a Ph.D. in computer science from the University of California at Berkeley."


I want to thank you, Dr. Eric Schmidt, for your contributions to our society--past, present, and future. Your work before at ZILOG, Bell Labs, PARC, and Sun Microsystems are an integral part of the fabric of time and history and well known to many in the computing industry. As Chairman and CEO, Novell Inc., we look with anticipation to your shaping of this formidable company to meet the demands of data communications in the future. Novell defined the networking operating system marketplace, with 15 years of experience serving over 79 million users worldwide. We watch with interest, how the corporation will continue to grow into the future.

Q: For the benefit of our readers considering a long term career in computers, what prompted you to enter this field and to take the various forks in your career finally leading to your present position at Novell Inc.?

A. I studied engineering as an undergraduate at Princeton and later received my doctorate in computer sciences from the University of California, Berkeley. There was much excitement at Berkeley in the computer sciences in the 1970s and1980s, including important work on the development of networks and the UNIX system. This gave me a chance to apply my education to technology that was destined to make contributions to the way people work and live. After joining Sun Microsystems, where I eventually became chief technical officer, I continued to focus on the promise and application of networks, the Internet, and technologies like Java. Novell, the world leader in networking software, made a natural fit.

Q: What advice would you give to computing students? What advice would you give to computing professionals in their career decisions? What areas should they target? Where are the areas for career growth?

A. The growth and opportunity in the field of information technology today is focused in networks and the Internet. In just the past 12 months, the number of Web pages generated everyday reached 1.5 million, or 65,000 per hour. Airline ticket sales over the Internet tripled. And over half of all businesses now have their own Web sites. Customers, individuals, and enterprises around the world are using networks to transform every aspect of their business. Everywhere we look, networks matter.

Q: Your educational programs (CNI/CII/CNE/CIP/CNA) are the model for the industry and many other companies have adopted similar programs. In a survey, I conducted of major training providers, there*s been a significant shift to other designations from competing companies. What triggered this shift? What are your plans to encourage people to keep up their certifications and to attract new people to your programs? How committed is your company to supporting your education channels?

A. Our commitment to our education channels is stronger than ever. We continue to be the leader in the quality of education we offer, the number of courses available worldwide, and the number of people we certify. NT, remember, is a relatively new phenomenon, so we expect to see some fast growth in NT training and a move toward dual certification by many networking professionals. We are taking advantage of this trend with new Internet certification and multi-vendor integration courses that are helping us certify thousands of new people every month. We're also looking at new forms of online training to help people prepare for their certifications at home or at the office. In addition, we're giving our CNEs a head start on NetWare 5 by offering training in advance of the first customer shipments.

Q: You have a good relationship with your various channel partners. What changes will be made to foster and encourage this relationship?

A. Our network of over 25,000 channel partners is another great asset that sets Novell apart from the pack. We've increased membership in every level of our reseller programs over the past year, and in 1998 we're rolling out a range of new programs under the umbrella of our PartnerNet Program. Getting to know our partners better has helped us tailor our programs for the distinct audiences in our channel: account executives, system engineers and the owners and manager of reseller organizations.

We're also addressing the different needs of resellers with different sales models, some of whom are more focused on selling hardware and software and others more focused on consulting and support services. The end result is the industry's most knowledgeable and professional channel, offering our customers the most comprehensive range of sales, support, integration and services.

Q: The developer community has generally focussed their energies on the market segments generating the great returns on their time and capital investments. In which directions do you see your company moving to support this community and to provide a return on their investment? What will be your short and long term strategies?

A. We've intensified our efforts to give developers the unified set of tools and APIs they need to create Java applications enabled by NDS and our complete family of network services. We call this development environment for directory-enabled applications our Open Solutions Architecture. We're already partnering with large developers like Cheyenne, IBM, Oracle and Netscape to deliver directory-enabled solutions for NetWare. And we're partnering with companies like Metroworks to bring top development tools like Code Warrior to the NetWare 5 platform. We also recently announced a $50 million Internet Development Fund that is making first and second stage investments in leading edge companies that are developing Java-related software for network servers.

Q: I remember evaluating your first release back in the early 80s and then carefully following the product releases over the years. Your company grew quickly to dominate the marketplace. NetWare 3.x was the watershed product in the minds of many VARs and system integrators. With NetWare 4.x, your company began to be buffeted by the marketplace even though it was (the singular product) with NDS - really the only widely-supported offering with true enterprise capability. How do you explain this buffeting or maybe a better word is downturn?

A. We are not seeing any downturn. We're selling more server platforms licenses than ever at Novell, with NetWare 4 now accounting for the majority of platform sales. As we communicate the advantages of Novell Directory Services and directory-enabled solutions, we're seeing more upgrades from earlier NetWare versions. It's all part of Novell's transition from a file and print services vendor to the leading vendor of server platforms for running intelligent network solutions.

Q. There is still a significant installed base using NetWare 3.x though a number have upgraded to 4.x and NT. Where do you see your main Operating Systems strategically positioned: 3.x, 4.x, and 5.x?

A. We will continue to support all three NetWare releases, which together meet the networking requirements of businesses of every kind and size. NetWare 4 and above provide directory functionality that delivers dramatic cost reductions and simplification of network administration and management, as well as support for directory-enabled applications like Netscape Web Servers and Oracle 8. NetWare 5, with its core Internet protocols and world's fastest Web server and Java Virtual Machine, will complete the integration of NetWare with the Internet and set standards for both corporate network users and Internet Services Providers. And let's not forget our NetWare for small business offering, which offers Novell's superior networking technology in a package that's exceptionally easy to use, manage, and expand.

Q. The term Intranetware caused some market confusion. How will 5.x be targeted and marketed? If 3.x or 4.x is doing the job, why move to 5.x?

A. We found that the NetWare brand had great meaning to our partners and customers, for whom the name means performance, reliability, scalability, and broad industry support. So we decided to return to the NetWare name for our next major platform release. NetWare 5 fully takes the Novell network platform to open Internet standards. We're confident that it will spawn the creation of network services products that make Novell the world's platform premiere server platform for running and managing network solutions. With NetWare 5, we will expand the acceptance of our platform by both business network users and Internet Services Providers.

Q: Novell has many of the best people in the industry and your company is uniquely qualified to forecast the future. How do you foresee the evolution of the Internet to being an "intelligent" network? What role will Novell take in this evolution or perhaps revolution?

A. The new face of networking has a human face and this underlying philosophy will color everything we will do in the coming years at Novell. NDS and directory-enabled solutions will give a user the ability to have one digital identity for all network resources. This digital persona will not be tied to the user's desktop. It will be kept on the network, where regardless of what desktop you are on and where you sit, you are ensured the same view and access to your applications and resources. NDS is already offering these capabilities on many of our customers' intranets and extranets, along with the ability to efficiently manage individual user profiles from a single location and login.

Q: Your company is re-energized and re-focussed for the challenges of the new millenium -- many credit this turn to your leadership and reputation. How have you reshaped the company and what changes do you plan in the short term and long term?

A. When I joined Novell in April, 1997, I had three main goals. First, we needed to align our business with the needs of our customers and the realities of the marketplace. Second, we needed to focus our resources in our areas of strength. Third, we needed to execute on our plans and deliver a series of great new products in an accelerated time frame.

A year later, we are right on track in all three areas. We've listened closely to our customers and partners and aligned our business to better meet their needs. We've become a much more efficient and focused company, with a greater sense of urgency and fewer levels of management. We're shipping great new products like BorderManager, FastCache, NDS for NT, GroupWise 5.2, and, soon, NetWare 5, that extend the capabilities of our installed base while attracting new customers. We've made Novell relevant again.

Q: With all of your collaborations with leading organizations, and companies, Novell is in a unique position to monitor the trends in the marketplace. As computing professionals, what key technologies should we be watching for? From a business perspective, what impact will these technologies have? Can you provide a forecast 1, 5, 10, and 20 years into the future?

A. Not without a few hundred pages! But I see every indication, for the foreseeable future, that business and technology around networking and the Internet will continue to grow at a rapid rate. The immediate challenge is to give users proximity to these new services, applications, and data, and to help customers use the available bandwidth more efficiently. To meet these challenges, businesses will need directory-enabled network services and network-based technologies like Java that can be distributed across the network.

Q: Novell maintains extensive collaborations with the leading computing companies. Can you describe how these collaborations will impact businesses, the computing industry, standardization and what significant technologies you see coming from these companies today, and far into the future?

A. The movement toward industry standards has an important role to play in ensuring interoperability between systems and delivering maximum value and choice to customers. Novell is active in many major standards bodies, especially in groups related to the Internet. By the end of 1998, all of our products will use core technologies based on Internet standards such as IP.

Cooperation and partnerships are especially important in a networked world, because no one company can do it alone. Novell's recent record-breaking SPECWeb96 benchmark, which showcased the world's fastest Web processor, is a case in point. The record-breaking solution reflects our strong partnerships with Intel, which provided the microprocessor architecture; Compaq, the server hardware vendor, and Netscape, which works with us on Web Server software.

Q: The computing industry is so dynamic. How is Novell planning to protect their leadership in the short and long term?

A. By doing what we do best--networking. There is no other major software company focused exclusively on networking. We will provide the network platform and services customers need to integrate and manage all resources on the network, whether they are based on NetWare, NT, UNIX, or mainframes.

Q: How do you see your company positioning yourself in the future with Border acceleration, Border Cache clusters, E-commerce and encryption, high availability, VPN, and the modesto effort?

A. Our Border products, with their security, VPN and performance acceleration features, have really taken off with customers. Record-breaking Web performance and centralized management of Internet access through NDS are making these products the intelligent, cost-effective choice for both business network users and ISPs. These products plug right into NetWare, NT, or UNIX networks and deliver dramatic performance improvements for Web sites and corporate intranets--performance four to seven times faster than NT or UNIX. We will make these products even faster and more manageable, and we are planning to add new commerce and security applications.

Q: Novell is a key pioneer in the development of large-scale solutions using the Intel Merced processor, Intel's 64-bit processor. This includes your work with 64-bit I/O including APIs for BorderManager. What will be the shape of your products with the Merced platform? What are your target markets and how will they impact businesses using the new technologies?

A. As always, we are working closely with Intel to stay out in front of their technology curve and enable our customers to take immediate advantage of their latest technology. Look for important new developments from Novell in areas like clustering and Java application serving, as we continue to give our customers the most scalable and reliable network server platforms.

Q: Oracle has a vision of Internet Computing as it pertains to open standards based workstations as networked computers. This allows the delivery and maintenance of networked applications from a centralized repository. What forces led your company to collaboration with Oracle? For most businesses, what's the significance of your Oracle initiative?

A. Novell and Oracle continue to deliver the most manageable, scalable, and top-performing database solution available for a broad range of applications. Integration of Oracle8 with NDS makes it easy for customers to manage database access and the entire network from a single location and login. Novell and Oracle are also moving toward server-based Java applications together, putting infrastructure in place to a support a new generation of object-based solutions. Shipping Oracle8 with NetWare 5 will deliver exceptional value to our customers and give developers and solutions providers a jump start in offering complete network solutions.

Q: I presume Dr. Roger Schell, (former architect for the NCSC C2 Red book), has been your principle architect on cryptography issues. What is Novell's strategy in the area of cryptography, presently and in the future? What impact will this have on businesses?

A. Two of the things we've learned about cryptography are that it's essential to creating secure network systems, and that deployment of strong cryptography is a complex world-wide issue in terms of export and import controls. We are delivering a system in NetWare 5, which we call the Novell International Cryptographic Infrastructure, or NICI. NICI is a modular framework that enables customers to configure and use the strongest available cryptography in a legal and secure manner on a world-wide scale, addressing both issues of key length and algorithm selection. As we announced at Brainshare this year, we are going to address our work on NICI in conjunction with Intel as part of the CDSA standard, which they've been developing with other members of The Open Group. Building from this foundation, we are extending support for public key certificates in conjunction with NDS, and are moving forward in support for essential security standards including SSL and other IETF authentication and confidentiality protocols.

Q: Some say Java is becoming fragmented -- perhaps impossible to control. And yet your company has embraced it to where you ve taken a point position. Performance comparisons demonstrate that Novell's Java Virtual Machine (JVM) is the fastest available by at least a factor of 2-to-1. Java is evident in your GroupWare product, GroupWise, and browser/console technologies. What is the risk factor here for your company since Microsoft could be a spoiler? Where do you see Java going in the short term and in the long term? Why should businesses embrace, Java-enabled technologies when there are competing technologies and standardization is an ongoing issue -- even with Java?

A. There is strong consensus on Java from the vendors making the strongest commitments--Novell, Sun, IBM, Oracle, Netscape, and thousands of smaller ISVs. Microsoft's direction is desktop-centric and carries no risk for Novell, because our focus is on deploying Java on middle-tier servers. Arguments about the Java brand are not nearly so important as the new value that the Java technology delivers for developing and deploying network applications. IBM is dedicating over 2,700 people to Java development, and Java projects are underway at approximately two thirds of all larger corporations. Novell is committed to Java for only one reason: because it will make networks work better for our customers.

Q: How is your company responding to the Year 2000 problem? What advice would you give to everyone?

A. Fortunately, Novell has been way out in front of this problem. So let me be clear. All our new products are Year 2000 compliant. For older products, we offer either easy software patches or an upgrade path. We have done the testing and validation required to certify our products as ready for the next millenium. And we don't fudge about these issues. We tell our customers exactly where our products stand.

Q: Drew Major, Chief Scientist and premiere inventor of NetWare, has been the principle architect for your company. His key role will change and be passed onto others. How are you planning this succession over time

A. Drew has made major new contributions to our BorderManager and FastCache products, and his efforts are reflected in the record-breaking benchmarks achieved with these very successful new products. I don't want to give away too much about his current projects, except that I expect his track record of breakthrough innovations will continue.

Q: Your products support the major standards including LDAP. What are the other major protocols you support today and which ones do you see as significant for the future in the short and long term? How closely do your people work with other pioneers such as those at Netscape?

A. NetWare 5 will use IP as its core protocol and include a fully LDAP-compliant version of NDS. Although we are rapidly moving to IP, we will maintain IPX connectivity for our existing customers. We work very closely with Netscape to optimize Netscape Web Servers for NetWare and NDS. This work is reflected in the world's fastest single-processor Web Server, which includes the Netscape Enterprise Server for NetWare. This Novell and Netscape solution more than doubles the speed of any NT solution and out-performs dual-processor NT and UNIX solutions for a fraction of the cost.

Q: Many large companies have plans for leveraging NDS to provide "single sign-on" authentication and credential lookup services in a multi-vendor environment. These are critical to the success of any project work where each member receives a unique ID, for which any or all of the computing services could be enabled.

Some companies are building services now, which use the RADIUS for NDS services to expose some of that data to various UNIX based systems. It would be tremendously helpful to have more direct access to NDS lookup functions through a UNIX SDK of some sort. When/where will Novell make available a UNIX-based SDK for NDS lookup functions?

A. We agree. The current NDS APIs are about 80% the same across all platforms. We have not built a specific Unix SDK for NDS, but are instead focusing on unifying all the NDS APIs across all platforms so that we can create a single SDK that addresses everyone's needs. We expect to complete this work by the end of 1998 for NetWare, NT and Solaris. Other Unix vendors, who license NDS source code from us, can follow with work of their own.

Q: Your company has many products. What do you see as the five (or more) key technologies your company supports today, and how they will evolve in the future?

A. First, we will continue to evolve NetWare as the industry's premiere server platform for running intelligent network solutions. We will also continue to deliver network solutions in four areas:

  1. file, print, and other network services, including e-mail and collaboration with GroupWise,
  2. network management through NDS and related tools such as our new ZENworks utility for desktop management,
  3. Internet and intranet services, including Netscape Web Servers for NetWare
  4. application services including development of our server-based Java Virtual Machine and work with thousands of ISVs to support our Open Solutions Architecture.

Q: There is so much "noise" in the marketplace. How do you uniquely define/differentiate your company, its products, and its current market position?

A. Our goal is to become the global leader in Internet software. Novell products make possible completely new classes of activities and categories of applications over intelligent, interconnected networks.

Dr. Schmidt, I want to thank you for agreeing to do this interview and sharing your years of experience and wisdom with our readers. Your work contributes to the computing industry mosaic, and we look forward to seeing more of your company's products in the future. Also, a thank you to Raymond Nasr, Jonathan Cohen, and Novell's many outstanding professionals for making this interview possible.


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